The following post is from my good friend Andrew Wilson. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
I never thought that I would think about particle physics and theology in the same conversation. I was thinking too small. Or maybe I was thinking too big because I haven’t thought about particle physics too much. As one who has always been fascinated with space, stars, and the secrets of the universe, my focus was fated to eventually shift from the very large to the very small.
I have not made it as deep into these scientific subjects as I would like, but at some point during my inquisitions, I made the following observation and wanted to share my thoughts online. I am grateful to Collin Selman for allowing me to post this assemblage of personal experience, scientific theory, and theology on his personal blog.
A riveting line of thought within quantum theory is the idea of entanglement. Entanglement suggests that particles are connected despite nonlocality, physical distance of hundreds of miles or more. Their properties seem to be intertwined against all odds, and measuring properties on one particle appears to have an effect on the other particle. For example, if Particle A has a clockwise spin, the observer can know with certainty that Particle B has an anti-clockwise spin.
A comparison that I found helpful in picturing how entanglement might work came from the illustration of a pair of gloves. Imagine that someone splits a pair of gloves and mails one to New York and one to London. The person who opens the package in New York instantly knows the state of the other glove, despite physical distance. If the receiver in New York has the left-hand glove, he knows that the glove in London is for the right hand or vice versa. Clearly particles are different from gloves, but this clarified my understanding.
Albert Einstein described this phenomenon as “spooky action at a distance.” The term entanglement was not around yet, and it was referred to as the EPR Paradox at this point in time. Einstein criticised Bohr’s work saying that quantum theory was not yet complete.
At this juncture, I think there is enough information on the table to transition to a parallel series of thoughts. As I was driving one day, I thought about how entanglement and the doctrine of substitutionary atonement match nicely together. The latter concerns itself greatly with how the sacrifice of Christ made payment for sin. The wrath of God must be satisfied, and Jesus offered himself on the cross as propitiation for those who would accept it.
This is reinforced in scripture in several places. Here are two verses that came to mind. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Here is where I had my epiphany. As a believer, I am entangled with Christ. One of us had sin, the other did not. One of us could pay the price, the other could not. One of us was on the right path, the other was spinning out of control. Just like those particles, though, our conditions were linked. If you measure Christ, He qualifies as holy. If you measure me, I do not. However, He chose to become “entangled” with me. Only one of us was worthy, and He switched conditions with me.
He took all of my anti-clockwise ways and gave me His clockwise ways. He became sin so that I might become the righteousness of God. I have never been to Jerusalem or the first century, but through some “spooky action at a distance,” He took my place. Now when God measures me, He sees Christ in my place, and for that, I am grateful.
I called one of my friends to bounce this idea around, and she responded with a clever observation. She said that one of her favourite parts about science was equilibrium. She purported that in order for there to be spiritual homeostasis, the redemptive narrative of the life of Christ was absolutely necessary following the fall of man. The same God who created the universe to work together in balance was also there to oversee its spiritual wellbeing.
As I continue to be a curious citizen of planet Earth, I’m sure that I will encounter more topics that cross over from theoretical inquiries to devotional thoughts, and perhaps Collin will be gracious enough to let me borrow some space on his blog again. Thank you for reading along.
– Andrew Wilson
P.S. In a similar vein, I also reflected on the movie, Interstellar during my preparation for this blog post. There is a scene where Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey’s characters are arguing on what to do next. Dr. Brand (Hathaway) implores Cooper (McConaughey) to listen to her. She says, “Maybe it means something more – something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade, who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it.”
One line in particular stands out for me: “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.” Again I will say, my life has been changed by a man who lived in a part of the world where I’ve never been in a time in which it is impossible to return. However, the love displayed in His sacrifice impacts me daily. Love does transcend time and space, and that is the Gospel.